September 15, 2023

Xerophthalmia: Vitamin A Deficiency

Xerophthalmia is a progressive ocular condition arising from insufficient levels of vitamin A within the body. This deficit can lead to desiccation of the eyes and tear ducts. If not addressed, it could progress to nocturnal blindness or the emergence of blemishes on the eyes. In severe instances, it might even inflict damage upon the cornea, potentially resulting in loss of vision. Vitamin A assumes a pivotal role in diverse ocular functions, and its insufficiency can present a spectrum of ocular indications and symptoms affecting the conjunctiva, cornea, and retina.

While this affliction is infrequent within the United States, it exhibits a more pronounced presence in developing nations, where nutritional scarcities are more prevalent. Vitamin A deficiency remains a notable global public health concern, afflicting more than half of all countries, and disproportionately impacting young children residing in underprivileged regions.

Children aged 3 to 6 years face an elevated susceptibility to nocturnal blindness due to xerophthalmia. This disorder affects approximately one-third of the worldwide pediatric populace and is culpable for causing blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children each year within developing countries.

Xerophthalmia stems from inadequate consumption of vitamin A. Unlike certain other compounds, the human body lacks the ability to synthesize its own vitamin A and must derive it from dietary sources. A shortage of vitamin A in the diet can be attributed to factors like malnutrition, compromised nutrient assimilation, chronic alcoholism, or highly restrictive eating habits.

Vitamin A, predominantly acquired through dietary means, is a fat-soluble vitamin and serves as a critical player in bodily processes encompassing cellular growth, metabolism, immune reactions, vision, and reproduction.

Regarding vision, vitamin A is indispensable as it constitutes a component of the protein responsible for capturing light within retinal receptors. An insufficiency of vitamin A can lead to abnormal transformations in mucus-secreting epithelial tissue, contributing to conditions such as desiccation of the conjunctiva and cornea, corneal ulcers, keratomalacia, and corneal scarring.

Prominent indications of xerophthalmia involve:
~Desiccation, thickening, and wrinkling of the conjunctiva, the delicate covering of the eyelid and eye surface.
~Nocturnal blindness, which impedes vision in conditions of low light.
~Corneal ulcers or scars.
~White patches on the conjunctiva identified as Bitot's spots.
~Softening of the cornea.

Prominent dietary sources of vitamin A consist of animal-derived products like cod liver oil, liver, butter, cheese, eggs, and fish. Among plant-based options, vitamin A-rich sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet red peppers, spinach, and lettuce.
Xerophthalmia: Vitamin A Deficiency

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